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Actor and former NFL player Carl Weathers has died at 76


The actor Carl Weathers died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 76 years old. NPR's Chloe Veltman reports that Weathers was best-known for his roles in "The Mandalorian," "Happy Gilmore" and his star turn in the first four "Rocky" films.

CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: As heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed, Carl Weathers projected pure power in the ring against Sylvester Stallone. His character was all swagger.


CARL WEATHERS: (As Apollo Creed) They're afraid. Hell, they knew everybody in the world is going to see this fight, and none of them got a prayer whipping me. So they're making excuses so they don't have to be the chump to get whipped in front of the whole civilized world.

VELTMAN: But Weathers told Terry Gross on WHYY's Fresh Air in 1988 he knew nothing about boxing when he auditioned for the role.


WEATHERS: I had never boxed. I'd never had gloves on. I'd never been in the ring. I'd never been to a boxing match.

VELTMAN: Turned out Weathers was as natural an athlete as he was an actor. His abilities can clearly be seen in movies like "Action Jackson," where Weathers starred as the titular Detroit police detective investigating a corrupt auto magnate.


VELTMAN: In one memorable sequence, the actor chases a taxicab before overtaking it and flinging himself on the top of the vehicle. He did many of his own stunts.


WEATHERS: (As Jericho Jackson) Hey, you. I'm talking to you.

VELTMAN: Born in New Orleans in 1948, the son of a day laborer, Weathers grew up playing sports. He earned an athletic scholarship to a private high school and San Diego State University. He went on to play pro football for the Oakland Raiders for a couple of seasons until 1974, but Weathers told Gross that acting was his first love.


WEATHERS: You know, I get to do what I've always wanted to do since I was a kid, which was be a professional actor.

VELTMAN: He landed roles in a couple of blaxploitation movies as well as bit parts on TV shows like "Good Times" and "Starsky And Hutch." Like a lot of Hollywood actors, it wasn't clear if he would break through, and then came the "Rocky" audition. But he told Terry Gross he felt like it wasn't going well.


WEATHERS: And I turned to them and just blurted out, you know, if you get me a real actor, I could do a much better job.

VELTMAN: He didn't realize the actor he was reading with was Sylvester Stallone.


TERRY GROSS: (Laughter).

WEATHERS: Well, I didn't know that the writer and the star of the movie were one and the same.

VELTMAN: Weathers went on to appear in "Predator" and "The Mandalorian," along with more than 75 other films and TV shows. Adept as a dramatic actor, Weathers could also be funny. In the sports comedy "Happy Gilmore," the actor plays a golf legend opposite Adam Sandler.


WEATHERS: (As Derick Peterson) You have no idea who I am, do you?

ADAM SANDLER: (As Happy Gilmore) No, I don't.

WEATHERS: (As Derick Peterson) Back in 1965, Sports Illustrated said I was going to be the next Arnold Palmer.

SANDLER: (As Happy Gilmore) Yeah. What happened?

WEATHERS: (As Derick Peterson) They wouldn't let me play on the pro tour anymore.

SANDLER: (As Happy Gilmore) Oh, I'm sorry - because you're Black?

WEATHERS: (As Derick Peterson) Hell, no. Damn alligator bit my hand off.

SANDLER: (As Happy Gilmore) Oh, my God.

WEATHERS: (As Derick Peterson) Yeah.

VELTMAN: According to a statement from his family, Weathers died peacefully in his sleep. A representative told NPR Weathers was, quote, "a true gentleman and a lovely human being."

Chloe Veltman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.
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